How Long Is a Check Good For?

Have you ever written a check and wondered how long it would be good for? How about a check someone gave you that you forgot to cash. How long can a check remain outstanding? It’s important to know when a check will expire, if for no other reason than it’s a hassle to have to get a replacement.

In this article, we’ll discuss what you need to know about cashing checks – the ones you write and the ones you receive.

Table of Contents
  1. How Long Are Checks Written to You Good for?
  2. How Long Are Checks You Write Good for? 
  3. How Long Are Non-Personal Checks Good for? 
    1. Cashier’s Checks
    2. U.S. Treasury Checks
    3. Travelers Checks
    4. Money Orders
  4. Why Is There an Expiration Date on Checks? 
  5. Why You Should Cash Checks Right Away
  6. Final Thoughts

How Long Are Checks Written to You Good for?

Typically, checks written to you are good for at least six months. While there may be exceptions to this rule, whether you’ve received a personal check or a check from your employer, you will typically have six months to cash it. 

It’s important to note that some businesses put an expiration date of three months on checks. For that reason, you’ll want to read the fine print on any check you receive to look for evidence of an expiration date. 

How Long Are Checks You Write Good for? 

The answer to this question depends solely on your bank. However, most national banks use the six-month rule regarding expiration dates. 

It’s best to check with a representative from your bank to find out what your bank’s rule is. But most of the time, you can expect that a bank won’t cash the check you wrote after six months. 

Exceptions do occur, and your bank has the right to cash a check you wrote after that six-month waiting period is up.

For that reason, you’ll want to keep the funds meant to cover the check in your bank account until you attain some closure. “Closure” might be verification from your bank that they won’t honor the check or the person or business you issued it to let you know that they won’t cash it. 

How Long Are Non-Personal Checks Good for? 

Cheques written on a business account or other non-personal checks may have different expiration dates applied to them. Typically, you’ll find an expiration date listed on the check. Here are some rules on other types of non-personal checks and their potential expiration dates. 

Cashier’s Checks

Many cashier’s checks include an expiration date disclaimer of 90 days. While you may find cashier’s checks with an expiration date of 180 days, 90 days is often the standard. 

Issuing banks should print an expiration date on a cashier’s check. If not, contact the issuing bank to inquire about the expiration date. 

U.S. Treasury Checks

U.S. Treasury checks are checks issued by the government. Examples include Social Security checks, disability checks, COVID-19 stimulus checks, or tax refund checks. 

Federal, state, and local agencies have the right to set expiration dates on checks they issue. For that reason, you’ll want to cash checks issued by the U.S. Treasury as soon as possible. 

If a check issued by the U.S. Treasury is more than six months old, you can contact the issuing department to get a new one issued. 

If you have questions about the expiration date on a check issued by the U.S. Treasury, contact the department that issued the check with any questions.

Travelers Checks

Travelers’ checks often don’t include expiration dates as long as the issuer of the travelers’ check is still in business. 

Contact the company issuing the travelers check if you have one older than six months from the date of issuance to be safe. 

Money Orders

In most cases, money orders don’t expire. However, companies issuing money orders often charge fees as a money order gets further out from the date of issuance. 

These fees can drastically reduce the balance on the money order. For that reason, you’ll want to cash any money orders given to you as soon as possible. 

Next, let’s talk about why it’s so important to have an expiration date on checks. 

Why Is There an Expiration Date on Checks? 

The Uniform Law Commission (ULC) drafted the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) in 1952 to harmonize U.S. laws regarding sales and other commercial transactions.

The UCC declares that banks are under no obligation to accept a check older than six months from the date of issuance.  

Banks have the right to accept older checks, but they are not obligated to do so. Each bank can make its own rules about stale-dated (checks older than six months) checks.

Checks have an expiration date for one reason: it makes banking easier. Could you imagine if checks didn’t have an expiration date? 

Checks you wrote years ago could hit your bank account long after you’ve forgotten about them.

And accounting practices at businesses would be a mess if it were common to hold onto issued checks indefinitely.

Banks make rules on time limits for cashing checks for everyone’s peace of mind. 

Why You Should Cash Checks Right Away

There are several reasons why you should cash checks written to you in a timely fashion. First, it will increase the chances of the funds still being available in the account.

Hint: If you’ve received a check from someone that you’re not sure you trust, be sure to verify funds on the check before you exchange your product or service with that person. 

Second, many banks won’t cash “stale-dated” checks. As mentioned above, a “stale-dated” check is one that remains uncashed more than six months after it was written. While all banks differ on this policy, many of them will stick to the six-month rule. 

Third, waiting longer to cash checks issued to you means you increase your risk of running into extenuating circumstances that may make it more challenging to get your money, such as:

  • The company going out of business
  • The issuer of the check moving away
  • Bank account on which the check was issued closing the account
  • The customer closing the bank account and switching banks

And lastly, checks held for long periods are often claimed invalid by the issuer. The issuer may count a check as invalid if they think it was lost, if there was a dispute involving the funds, or for other reasons.

In those cases, the issuer may choose to put a “stop-payment” status on the check.

If a stop-payment status is issued, the check is no longer cashable, regardless of the date. Thus, cashing checks sooner than later is the safer financial move.

Final Thoughts

While a check is usually valid for six months, you’re better off cashing a check issued to you sooner rather than later. 

Conversely, if you’ve written a check that’s taking a long time to cash, you’ll want to leave the funds meant to cover the check you’ve written in your bank account for at least six months or longer.

Stale-dated checks do slip through the cracks when bank employees don’t notice the date on the check. 

And while you (or your bank) could legally have a stale-dated check returned and not honor the funds, doing so can be a time-consuming and challenging process.   

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About Laurie Blank

Laurie Blank is a blogger, freelance writer, and mother of four. She’s psyched about teaching others how to manage their money in a way that aligns with their values and has been quoted in Bankrate.

She's a licensed Realtor with Edina Realty in Minneapolis, Minnesota (also licensed in Wisconsin too) and has been freelance writing for over six years.

She shares powerful insights on her blog, Great Passive Income Ideas, that will show you how you can create passive income sources of your own.

Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank or financial institution. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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